Mansfield Town manager Nigel Clough says his squad will look to ‘raise it’ for the remaining ten matches of the Sky Bet League Two campaign as the race for promotion edges towards the business end of the season.
The Stags can go into the play-off positions with victory away at Hartlepool tomorrow night, despite having played fewer games than their League One-chasing rivals.
Speaking in a news conference ahead of the clash at Suit Direct Stadium, the gaffer called for his players to focus entirely on the remaining ‘unbelievably important games’.
“We’ve got ten games to go,” said the boss.
“[They are] Ten unbelievably important games.
“[It’s] Fifteen hours of football, we’ve just got to raise it for that time that we’re out on the pitch.
“Nothing else matters really, just those ten games.”
The current play-off position holders all sit on 63 points. The manager hopes his players can take advantage the games in hand on those above them in what is one of the closest promotions battles for years.
“It’s incredible,” said Nigel.
“I’ve never seen it where all four teams in the play-offs are currently on the same amount of points.
“We’re just a point back from them with a game or two in hand.
“It’s incredibly tight all the way down to tenth.
“I think even eleventh have still got a chance of making the play-offs.”
The Stags’ chief was pleased at the way his side fought to the end in the weekend’s dramatic, late victory over relegation-fighting Oldham.
“It’s that sort of euphoria when you do get a goal with almost the last kick of the game.
“Then reality sinks in that we weren’t as good as we hoped to be on the day.
“We said how good Oldham could be and they caused us problems throughout the game.
“We get a lucky break, it [the ball] hits the inside of the post and Laps [George Lapslie] is following it in [for the winner].
“It can go anywhere off the post, it dropped to Laps’ feet, and he managed to bundle it in.
“Over 36,40 games we’ve played this season in all comps, [it was] no more than we deserved.”
The Stags’ next opponents, Hartlepool, currently sit in 13th place in Sky Bet League Two. The boss expects a tough match in County Durham.
“I think they’ve improved,” the gaffer said.
“We had somebody obviously at the game against Northampton on Saturday and there was very little in it.
“They’re a good, strong home side.
“In the first half of the season they were good at home and then it’s reversed a little bit and they’ve been quite good on the road.
“It’s always one of those difficult places to go.
“If you don’t fancy it, you’re half beaten before you get there.”
As the manager’s squad approach the remaining ten matches, the boss was keen to point out the unpredictability of the division.
“After the previous seven months I don’t think you can estimate or guess where you’re going to get points from.
“When we had that run [without a victory], no way could you sit down and say [in] 12,13,14 games you’re not going to get a win.
“Likewise, I don’t think anybody could predict that we were going to win 19 out of the next 26 in all competitions.
“[In] The last ten, [we’ll take] each one as it comes.
“It one seems to get harder as well because of the run we’re in and the [playing] Saturday, Tuesday, Saturday.
“It’s tough when you’re on the road.
“No team in the country is better away from home than they are at home.”
The boss issued an update on the squad’s injury situation ahead of tomorrow evening’s fixture.
“We’ve had one or two go down with illness over the weekend,” he said.
“There was a few carrying knocks [after the Oldham win].
“Matty Longstaff’s got a whack, Quinny’s got a whack, Macca’s got a whack.
“There’s about four, five, six of them that are doubts.
“Under normal circumstances whether we’d get them out there tomorrow night; we’ll see.
“There’s half a dozen carrying things at the moment.”
James Perch, who started the previous three league matches, is someone the manager expects to play a key part in the run-in.
“[It’s] Remarkable really. I think he’s [Perch] going to be a key player for us in the last ten games, on and off the pitch.
“He’s one that exudes the calmness that you need in these situations.
“We put together a few very, very good moves on Saturday at Oldham – we’ve just got to do more of that.”
Watch the manager's interview in full now by clicking here.